The Rachel Mac Transformation: Part 1

Editors Note: Rachel Mac is a commercial litigator in Chicago, Illinois, who lives a healthy lifestyle despite 12+ hours per day in the office. She has come up with a low-maintenance healthy lifestyle that allows her to eat well and hit the gym regularly, with a schedule that’s anything but consistent. Quest is happy to welcome Rachel Mac to our blog, where she will be a regular contributor. Find Rachel on Facebook and on Twitter.


This is the story of a life-changing transformation.

I went from a sad, overweight twenty-something to a happy, confident young woman by adopting healthy habits and working around a crazy schedule to stick with a healthy diet. I’m looking forward to being a regular contributor to the Quest Blog, sharing the tips and tricks that helped me change my body and my life. But first, I want to introduce myself and tell you my story.

As a kid, I excelled in school, but not in athletics; though I attempted to play sports, I felt hopeless. My coaches and gym teachers described me as “indoorsy” and “bookish.” My academic success led me to college, where I gained twenty pounds during my freshman year. Over the next four years, I went through cycle after cycle of losing and gaining that same twenty pounds. Without any knowledge of healthy eating habits I felt doomed to continue the destructive pattern forever. I graduated college at 148 lbs with my self-esteem and body image at an all-time low. I avoided all cameras at my graduation. I was fat, graduating nearly thirty pounds heavier than when I started. With law school on the horizon I was depressed, intimidated, and defeated.

At law school things got worse. Poor eating habits, long hours, and lack of easy access to a gym brought my weight up to 155 pounds. While shopping one afternoon I burst into tears in the dressing room. The pant size I thought would fit, then the next size larger, and finally the size above that proved too small to button. During a physical exam I followed the lines on each axis into the crimson-colored “overweight” section of my doctor’s height-weight chart. The negative effects of living an unhealthy life weren’t just visual. All of the highly processed junk food was taking a toll on my energy levels. I could barely make it through a long day of stressful classes and studying with processed carbohydrates as my fuel. The final straw was overhearing a coworker make a nasty remark about my body. It finally dawned on me. My weight wasn’t a phase. It was me. It was how other people saw me. I was overweight and it was time to make a lasting change.

I found support in the online community where I started tracking my food and exercise. The social-networking component was incredibly helpful; I met a number of people who were struggling just as I was, trying to learn to lose weight after a lifetime of deeply embedded unhealthy choices. I started small, focusing on increasing my protein intake and reducing my intake of non-fiber carbohydrates. I added more fiber to my diet, replacing the sugar I used to rely on for temporary bursts of energy. I noticed that my mood and energy levels remained consistent throughout the day. The healthy fats in nuts and almond butter kept me full on fewer calories, so I never felt hungry during the day. Grocery-shopping trips went from twenty minutes of grabbing junk to an hour long ritual where I studied nutrition labels as carefully as I read my constitutional-law textbook.

But the information was overwhelming. Tracking my intake was incredibly time consuming. I felt I would never be able to live a healthy, normal life. As soon as I would start to see signs of progress, my law-school schedule would grow more demanding, in a vicious cycle I couldn’t seem to escape. The ever-increasing stresses from school combined with rock-bottom self-esteem and growing concern about my health caused me to fall back on old ways. The lure of pizza delivery. A few clicks of the mouse, a call for confirmation, dinner in thirty minutes or less.

I was heavier than I’d ever been in my life. My weight was still on the rise, and I had no idea what to do.

Part II continues here …


  1. I found the SparkPeople community to be fairly intolerant of low-carb diets. Was it just me?

    • Bret-it’s not just you! I’m not 100% certain about this, but I think SparkPeople bases its nutrition guidelines off of the USDA Food Pyramid. In an effort to avoid spotlighting “trendy” diets, SparkPeople may be a bit intolerant of new developments in diet/weight-loss theory. Once I started ignoring their protein and carb guidelines (former were too low, latter were too high), I did much better than on the 250g-carb-per-day plan they put me on by default.

      What I like best about SparkPeople is the easy, intuitive food tracking (minus their guidelines) and the outstanding social networking component of the site. I found such inspiration from other members, and I’ve been happy to provide inspiration to a bunch of my SparkFriends. One thing I’ve really learned along the way is that it’s helpful to get input from as many places as possible, and to only take as gospel that which works particularly well for you. For that reason, I ignore most of the nutrition guidelines based off the USDA Food Pyramid, which focuses too much on carbs for my experience.


      I agree also. I don’t use their rigid breakdowns, but really just watch the important stuff like fiber/protein/fats and then just decide how I feel rather than how they say I should feel. I use SP mostly for the community, motivation and conversation. You gotta start somewhere, right?

    Jamie Nielsen

    This is great Rachel! I refer to your FB page and nutritional tracker too because you typically eat foods that are easier to digest. I suffer from leaky gut and I have to avoid fruits, gluten, soy, dairy. I uses SP too but recommendations by friends don’t really apply to my physical condition so I use it mainly for blogging and support. Your receipes are very creative. They’ve inspired me to work on making my own protein bar.

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    Is this gal a weight lifter now?

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